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Mosul Music Festival: Melodies to overcome the dark times – Dr. Hannah Neumann

ISIS occupation has left deep scars on the city of Mosul. But restoration works on the historic city centre are underway; mosques, churches and houses are being rebuilt. In the midst of this sense of optimism, the Mosul Music Heritage Festival took place for the second time. The festival, which I initiatied, gathers traditional music groups from all over the region, as well as European musicians, to bring the music back to Mosul, where it had been outlawed for such a long time under ISIS rule. As last year already, this festival was an incredible experience. I very much enjoyed the hospitality and kindness of the organizers and supporters, and was deeply impressed by the enthusiasm of the audience and the professionalism of all musicians involved.

This festival was and is an excellent demonstration of the beauty and diversity of Iraqi culture in Mosul, combining music and architecture in a unique way.

In a city that has become a symbol of survival, the festival sends a message to the world: it is possible to overcome such a dark time – and people want to celebrate and enjoy their lives in ways that were impossible under ISIS, by playing musical instruments, singing and dancing just as people have done for centuries.

The most important aspect this year, in my point of view, was the creation of a joint band consisting of Iraqi and European musicians. All the participants, both Iraqi and European, confirmed to me how enriching they found the experience.

I look forward to many more events of this kind in the future and have no doubt that the Mosul Music Festival will continue.

A big thank you to everyone who made this year’s festival possible, especially to Anaïs Boelicke, the director of the Goethe Institute in Erbil, and her entire team, as well as to UNESCO, the German Federal Foreign Office, the Mosul Book Forum, Mosul Heritage, the “Volunteer with us” initiative, the Iraqi Ministry of Culture, the embassies of Spain and France and the European Union.

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